Hanuman Crosses the Ocean
In order to get to Lanka, where Sita was held prisoner by Ravana, it was necessary to cross the ocean.
To accomplish such a feat, everyone felt that only Hanuman was capable.
Hindus believe that one of the great impediments in the spiritual journey of an aspirant is his attachment towards material objects.
The attachments and subsequent desires are like a great ocean one has to traverse to get to one’s spiritual goal.
Hence crossing the ocean to get to Sita is symbolic of crossing over one’s attachments and desires to reach ‘Devotion Incarnate’ Sita.
It is said that when Hanuman was about to cross the ocean he became big in stature. Though big, he was light in weight.
One requires great knowledge and wisdom when one is required to do an important act.
This is the symbolism of the great stature of Hanuman.
However even though one may have to do an act of importance, one must be light, that is, one must be devoid of the ego. Humility is one of the most important requisites of the spiritual aspirant’s personality.
It is said that the stalk on which a ripe fruit rests bends or bows in humility.
If the stalk has not learned the art of bowing, it breaks.
As Hanuman crossed over the ocean different demonesses came across his path.
These demonesses that crossed the path of Hanuman are the obstacles that one encounters on the spiritual path.
Hanuman’s first encounter was with a golden mountain. The lord of the golden mountain asked Hanuman to rest, before he continued the journey.
The golden mountain is symbolic of material temptation.
Hanuman did not want to rest even on a golden mountain before his mission was completed, that is before he got to Sita.
Hanuman won over the first tempting encounter.
Hanuman’s next encounter was with a demoness who wanted to devour him. However just as the demoness’s mouth opened Hanuman became larger than the mouth.
When an aspirant moves on the spiritual path, he comes across people who want to threaten his progress. They may do so by criticising him or by trying to cut down his faith with their ridicule.
The second encounter of Hanuman indicates that one should not argue or fight with such people. Instead one should polish one’s personality to such an extent that one becomes bigger than one’s adversary.
The third encounter of Hanuman was with a demoness who lived in the ocean. This demoness attacked the shadows of her victims. She was only interested in attacking those who flew high.
This demoness is symbolic of jealousy and arises from within the aspirant.
When an aspirant reaches a certain elevated position, he is attacked by jealousy. He may become jealous of anyone who may seem to be soaring higher than him.
Hanuman killed this adversary with a mighty blow.
The only solution to an encounter with jealousy is to kill it. Otherwise this enemy is capable of devouring one and that would be the end to one’s spiritual advancement.
Hanuman moved ahead undaunted by perils. He had defeated each enemy he had encountered on the way. He had not succumbed to temptation, he had not cowed under criticism, had not been influenced by controversies and had not given in to jealousy.
All Hanuman wanted was to accomplish the task entrusted to him. He wanted to get to Sita. For his services all he wanted was that Rama and Sita remain enthroned in his heart.
Hanuman arrived in Lanka after defeating many foes. Yet another enemy awaited him in the Golden City.
She was the mighty demoness Lankini who guarded the impregnable gates of the City.
This demoness claimed that she only ate robbers. Hanuman wondered if Lankini’s meal consisted of only robbers, how come she had not eaten her Master Ravana who was the biggest thief. After all he had abducted Sita through foul means.
Lankini was not really evil. Because she had lived in Lanka for such a long time under the influence of other demons, her mind seemed to be deluded.
She was not able to observe for herself that, though she claimed that her meal consisted of only robbers, she was letting Ravana get away scot-free.
Hanuman gave Lankini a mighty blow. She fainted, later repented and soon died.
Lankini is symbolic of delusion of the mind.
A spiritual aspirant has often to battle with the delusion of his own mind.
At this stage he requires a great amount of awareness so that he may see situations and people as they truly are. For that the help of a Guru (Saint) is essential.
This Guru must be evolved enough to inflict a mighty blow to this delusion.
(Lankini came in contact of a Saint (Guru) in the form of Hanuman.)
Under this blow, the delusion becomes weaker and weaker until it dies a natural death, leaving the road free for the aspirant to continue his journey ahead towards perfection.
It was time for Hanuman to find Sita.
Ravana had a brother by the name of Vibhishana. He was a devotee of Rama and strongly disapproved of Ravana’s abduction of Sita. He directed Hanuman to Ashok Vatika where Sita was held a prisoner.
Now, Hanuman assumed a small form. That is, he became small in stature by the magical powers that he possessed.
This is symbolic – whenever one is about to meet a personality more evolved spiritually than one is, it is essential to be in a small form, that is a form of total humility, then is one able to receive the grace.
Hanuman reached the Ashok Vatika and hid among the branches of a tree. Under that tree Sita sat dejected. She was starting to lose faith. She wondered whether Rama would ever be able to find her and rescue her from her plight.
Hanuman dropped the ring that Rama had given him to show to Sita.
Sita recognised the ring and welcomed Hanuman as a messenger from Rama.
She wondered how Rama could have ever forgotten her.
Hanuman told Sita that Rama was as unhappy without her as she was without him.
Hanuman reassured her that as soon as he would go back and tell Rama about Sita’s whereabouts, he would come to relieve Sita from the clutches of Ravana.
Sita’s faith was restored.
The part that Hanuman plays here is that of a sage whose words act as a balm to a sagging spirit.
There are times, in the path of devotion where one loses all hope of meeting one’s beloved. If one is only receptive, then help comes in the form of a sage’s entrance and reassurance that God is ever concerned and never far.
THE CAPTURE OF HANUMAN
Sita felt reassured that all would be well with her. Hanuman relieved, suddenly realised that he was hungry. He not only ate the fruits but also uprooted the mighty trees of the garden of Lanka.
In this earth, the garden of Eden that we live in, it is necessary to satisfy our hunger but after that it is essential to uproot the roots of desire that confound us and enmesh us in its grip.
Hearing of the havoc created in the garden. Ravana sent his messengers and his son to fight with Hanuman. Hanuman killed them all.
After having proved his strength it is believed that Hanuman wanted to allow himself to be captured so that he could try and persuade Ravana to return Sita and thereby avert a war. Hanuman was captured by Ravana’s son Indrajit and taken to the court of Ravana.
Hanuman beseeched Ravana to come to his senses and amicably return Sita to Rama. Hanuman reassured Ravana that Rama’s compassionate nature would forgive Ravana all his previous misdeeds.
How could the great King of Lanka take advice from a mere monkey! Ravana laughed.
Sages believe that words of wisdom should be imbibed no matter who utters them.
Ravana did not heed the words of Hanuman.
To humiliate Hanuman further, Ravana ordered that Hanuman’s tail should be put on fire.
By the power that Hanuman possessed he allowed himself to grow in size. His tail grew to such an extent that it is said that all the oil and cloth in Lanka was exhausted to ignite Hanuman’s tail.
Hanuman jumped up with a mighty roar and with the burning tail engulfed the city of Lanka in flames.
He then jumped into the sea to put out the fire in his tail.
Jumping into the sea may also be symbolic of Hanuman washing himself of the impurities and temptations inflicted on him by the alluring city of illusion.
One learns from the above incident never to underestimate and harm another, lest he turns round and destroys you a hundredfold.
Looking at the burning flames of Lanka, two souls from the royal household got further concerned – Ravana’s wife Mandodari and Ravana’s brother Vibhishana.
Mandodari had all the time been trying to bring her husband Ravana to his senses. She had been urging him to return Sita to Rama. She knew that Sita’s abduction could only spell ruin to Lanka and it’s inhabitants. But Ravana paid no heed. He believed that Mandodari’s entreaties were only due to her fear of competition if Sita were to remain in Lanka.
An egoist will always see things in the light that suits him, no matter how much a well-wisher may be trying to make him see the truth.
It has earlier been mentioned that Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana, believed that Rama was a Divine Incarnation.
Vibhishana had directed Hanuman to Ashok Vatika where Sita was being held a prisoner.
Seeing Lanka going up in flames Vibhishana tried to bring to Ravana’s notice that if one monkey could create such havoc, what would not a whole army do?
Vibhishana implored Ravana that he should return Sita to Rama.
Ravana accused his brother Vibhishana of siding with the enemy and banished him from the kingdom.
Vibhishana was in confusion. Where was he to go? What was he to do? Ravana had refused to heed his urgings. The inhabitants of Lanka were going to be the innocent victims of a war that was inevitable.
To avert this disaster there was only one way open to him. He had to go to Rama even at the risk of Rama’s army killing him, suspecting that he was a spy from Ravana’s camp. They would be justified in thinking this. After all Vibhishana was Ravana’s brother.
Vibhishana decided to go to Rama despite the risk that he may be captured. He went empty-handed with only the belief in his heart that he was doing what he believed to be right.
Vibhishana arrived where Rama and his army had encamped.
The army warned Rama not to heed Vibhishana’s words as in all probability he was a spy lying in order to gain access in enemy territory.
However Rama welcomed Vibhishana with open arms. Rama believed in Vibhishana and claimed that one brother should not be penalised for another’s wrongdoing.
Rama promised Vibhishana that he would avoid as much bloodshed as he could during the war in Lanka.
Rama crowned Vibhishana King of Lanka in advance, and treated Vibhishana with the protocol that one king reserves for another.
Vibhishana belonged to the class of devotees that risks all, even their life, for what they believe to be right and for the benefit of others.
God takes such devotees close to His heart and gives them His Kingdom.
Rama gave the Kingdom of Lanka to Vibhishana.
By crowning Vibhishana the King of Lanka Rama showed another facet of his divine character.
Rama was not waging a war for power. He was not interested in annexing Lanka to his kingdom.
All Rama wanted was what belonged to him. Sita.